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New online tool shows the way to healthier food choices

Food Compass
Photo: Tufts University

Medford, MA — Quick: Which is a healthier snack, an apple or a slice of apple pie?

OK, that’s an easy one, but let’s say you want to choose between certain fruits and vegetables. Or perhaps a nut or legume. A new tool from Tufts University can help.

Food Compass is a nutrient profiling system that looks at more than 8,000 foods’ nutrients, ingredients, processing characteristics and additives, among other characteristics, and grades their healthfulness on a scale of 1 to 100.

Experts encourage regular consumption of foods that have a score of 70-100. Foods with scores of 31-69 should be eaten moderately, and those in the 1-30 score range should be minimized.

Some rating examples:

  • Salted almonds (91)
  • Tuna salad with light mayonnaise (73)
  • Grilled, skinless chicken breast (61)
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with white bread (35)
  • Thick-crust pizza with extra meat (25)
  • Small, fast-food cheeseburger (8)

Raw raspberries scored a perfect 100, while non-chocolate, fat-free pudding earned a rating of 1. The average score for sugar-sweetened sodas is 27.6, compared with 67 for 100% fruit or vegetable juices.

“Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is pretty confused about how to identify healthier choices in the grocery store, cafeteria and restaurant,” Dariush Mozaffarian, lead study author and dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said in a press release. “Consumers, policymakers and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone toward healthier choices.”

Further details of the tool were explored in a study published online Oct. 14 in the journal Nature Food.

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